Sterling spikes on news of UK-Ireland trade breakthrough

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Author

05 December, 2017

Ireland, with the backing of the other 26 member states, wants the United Kingdom to provide guarantees on how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland - part of the United Kingdom - and the Republic of Ireland.

A meeting on this with all political party leaders is set for lunchtime today.

British prime minister Theresa May is travelling to Brussels on Monday (4 December) to try to reach a deal on Brexit divorce issues despite having failed to clinch an agreement on the Northern Ireland border ahead of the meeting.

"We had an agreement this morning", Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, expressing disappointment at the last-minute glitch.

Ireland and the other European Union members are demanding the United Kingdom provide details of how customs checkpoints and other border obstacles can be avoided before negotiations can move on to their next phase of discussing post-Brexit relations like trade. This is possible because both the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the EU's borderless single market for goods and services as well as the tariff-less customs union.

May, her Brexit minister David Davis and the prime minister's Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, will meet with EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Junkcer's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, for lunch.

European Union lawmaker Philippe Lamberts, who met Juncker earlier on Monday, said the draft text on Ireland would commit Britain to "full alignment" on rules.

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The issue of citizens' rights has also remained a hurdle.

May said that "on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation". But the issues of the rights of expatriate citizens and the UK-EU border on the island of Ireland defied a deal until the last minute.

However, unionists tend to view with scepticism any proposal for harmonisation of rules on either side of the border.

Ms Foster had issued a statement warning it would not accept "any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK".

If she had ignored their concerns, there's little doubt that the party's 10 MPs would have sat on their hands and not supported the Conservatives in important votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill this week.

But that task has been complicated by the DUP's show of strength, the publication of the sensitive wording from the draft negotiating text and Leo Varadkar's public insistence that the British government had signed up to a formula which the DUP found so hard to swallow.


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